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Hard questions about HTPC

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#1
Hello guys,

Been a while I posted here (a long while actually:rolleyes:).

Anyway, Ive been looking into getting some Hi-Fi stuff for like over a year now. Ive been considering a lot, both just purely dedicated components but as well a HTPC. Now I came to the conclusion that a HTPC might be a better choice simply because you can upgrade outdated technology.

I do understand that a HTPC is not as dedicated and thus not built with the high quality of normal components. But Im not really looking into audiophile and pure cimena stuff too much. I could, but I tend to go nuts over things quite fast and waste easily multiple 1000's of Euro's on stuff I dont even understand, and that's not what Im looking to do.

What I basicly want with this HTPC is to enjoy good music quality and movies, watch TV and eventually record TV programs/movies. Ive no need to burn things onto another medium though. No need to game on it either. It needs to be fast and responsive, when all setup I do not want to use anything like a mouse/keyboard. Only a remote controller, just as any Hi-Fi set (this is possible right?). When it's idle it needs to consume almost no power, but with a few MSR editors and CnQ this shouldnt be too hard.

Ill list my plans first, or considerations.

CPU: AMD Athlon X2 6500
95W TDP, I think there's a possiblity to under volt this CPU and yet eventually to OC it. It's basicly a dualcore Phenom @ 2.3Ghz, and quite a few Phenom 9850BE's could run near 1Vcore on stock speeds.

Motherboard: DFI Lanparty JR 790GX-M2RS
m-ATX, HDMI output onboard, 128MB DDR3 sideport memory and we all know DFI is most of the times a good brand for tweaking your hardware to the max, be it lower power or extreme speeds.

RAM: Buffalo Firestix 2x2GB DDR800, CL4-4-4
4GB should be more than enough, low latency as well. Might eventually look around for a better kit with Micron's to hopefull reach DDR800 CL3-3-3.

HDD 1: 8GB SLC SSD
As said, it needs to be responsive. This is for OS/programs only. I think with a SSD you scrape off a lot of load times and it boots up fast as well. No clue on a brand yet. SLC technology to have a better lifetime regarding rewrites.

HDD 2: 1TB SATA
For recording, big enough I'd say, and 1TB is not all that expensive anymore. Didnt look into which brand yet. Shouldnt make too much noise, but needs to be a bit responsive of course.

DVD/BR player: Plextor PX-B300SA
Looks like normal Bluray player, can play HD-DVD as well if needed.

TVcard: TechniSat CableStar HD2
You can plug in a digital cable card into it as well. Besides that, I guess most TV cards will do in the first place?

Those were the main parts which Im pretty sure about. I dont know if anyone has a few better suggestions though, if so I'd like to hear them.

Now Im landing at a few harder points, namely casing, sound and a few extra things.

I know there's loads of nice HTPC cases out there. However, what I like so much about components is that they're, if you pick them right, in the same style etc. Now if I only had one case for the HTPC there's no problem.

But, I dont know much about sound, but I do understand that speakers which you can plug into a PC are not delivering enough power to fill a room most of the times. I read mixed stories about Logitech's Z5500 and Creative's Gigaworks S750. They seem quite solid, however I read both have a few drawbacks, be it bass, mid range or high sounds. Also Z5500 had a plopping issue but I think Logitech solved this ages ago already, if not I can always RMA it.

If either of that set seems to be good enough, there's no issue regarding a case. In the end there are still a lot of Hi-Fi sets out there with sattelites just as small or even smaller than above mentioned sets which make me wonder how they could fill a room with sound as well. However, the amps might be better, but there's where I start lacking knowledge already:p.

Now if those sets are not recommendable, I might look into some bookshelf speakers. And for that I need an amp, but I'd really like it if it would look nice in combination with the HTPC case. Now I found this from m-Cubed:
HFX Mini HTPC case
HFX Mini 5.1 1300W Amplifier
As you can see they're both in the same style and actually I really like it. But well, you can also see the price of that amp, and 1300W... it seems quite a lot. Also it's a 4Ohm amp, as said I dont understand too much about amps but most speakers are 8Ohm... So it's a bit unclear for me whether that amp is really all that usefull.

Also I still live in my parents house. My room is not big enough to store 4 bookshelf speakers, a centre speaker and a sub of sizes for such amplifiers. Besides that, this amplifier has a built in external X-Fi card and connects to the PC with a USB. I dont know if a USB connection will result in quality loss? In the end the sound is amplified directly in the amplifier from the soundcard, but well. The data that has to be 'calculated' moves from the PC via a USB connection which seems a bit weird for a product aimed at high quality. I could be entirely wrong though.

If that m-Cubed set is actually very good Ill have to change the Bluray player into a slimdrive. Also Ive no clue what speakers would go with that either, it's not easy to find 4Ohm speakers actually.

If the m-Cubed isnt the way to go Im thinking to get Asus' new Xonar HDAV1.3 card. It seems to be quite solid and aimed for HD. Whether it's gimmick, I dont know. So if anyone would know a bit more if it's a good thing or not, advice is welcome.

RC: Well, if m-Cubed is the way to go and if Im spending money then anyway, Im looking into VEXO HFX Edition RC. It's expensive too, but you got to admit it's damn nice thingy there. Since you can only order it with a HFX case, otherwise maybe a Logitech Harmony some sort of control. They seem good (my dad has one).

Sorry for the very long post, but basicly contains most of the stuff I want to know and/or need opinions about. Software wise I think Ill go with MediaPortal, seems quite nice to me. If I actually overlooked things, please remind me as well.

Thx in advance!
 
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W1zzard

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#2
8 GB SSD will probably be too small for you. It won't do anything for noise since you also have the 1 TB HDD. Better go with a single quiet Samsung Spinpoint (those are the quietest drives I could find).
After booting, your system will barely access the HDD so no need for SSD
If you want to save additional money, 2x 1 GB of RAM should be plenty. Windows + a media playback / recording app certainly won't need more memory.
 

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#3
For your 1TB HDD, I'd recommend the Samsung F1. Very fast, reliable and quiet :)

I see that you're still living with your parents and room is at a premium. Have you considered a good set of headphones? www.head-fi.org if you're interested, high end phones really do sound amazing.
 
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#4
8 GB SSD will probably be too small for you. It won't do anything for noise since you also have the 1 TB HDD. Better go with a single quiet Samsung Spinpoint (those are the quietest drives I could find).
After booting, your system will barely access the HDD so no need for SSD
If you want to save additional money, 2x 1 GB of RAM should be plenty. Windows + a media playback / recording app certainly won't need more memory.
Leaving the SSD out would indeed save me some money there. I know the HDD would make sound, but I chose the SSD for a fast boot. But if this wouldnt have much of an influence, then I could leave it out as well. But why would 8GB not be enough or Windows and the very few apps to run with it? I thought it would be enough, but if it's not... Im not going to buy a 16GB SSD for that:rolleyes:

Regarding RAM, could consider it. In the end there's not a huge price difference between 2 and 4GB anymore either.

Jmatt110 said:
For your 1TB HDD, I'd recommend the Samsung F1. Very fast, reliable and quiet

I see that you're still living with your parents and room is at a premium. Have you considered a good set of headphones? www.head-fi.org if you're interested, high end phones really do sound amazing.
Thank you for the HDD recommend. I also saw there's a Samsung 1TB F1R, will have to look later on what the difference is between them.

Headphones will always be quite nice, but I'd rather feel some bass gearing trough my body. Also I tend to put music harder then needed, or fall alseep when watching TV late in the night. Ive used headphones a few times to listen music with my stereo. Then I woke up from a loud 'bang' to see my stereo dropped 2 meters on the ground:laugh: (Im laughing because it was a plain rubbish thing anyway).
 
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#5
I haven't heard of the X2 6500 but have the X2 6400 or X2 6000. Why not go with a Phenom X3 or X4? Even when I have my 9850 running as a 3Ghz Kuma (2 cores disabled), it smokes my X2 6000 when it comes to video encoding. For the money I would say a Phenom X3 or X4. I like your choice of motherboard, I want one too. I agree with Wiz on just 2Gb cause honestly an HTPC just isn't going to use more than that but if your going to do some encoding then 4Gb's wouldn't be bad, but run them unganged for faster encoding times. I really don't feel the SSD's are worth it for the money. If you just want something small and quiet then the Samsung F1's can't be beat. I don't own one yet but working on it(if the GF would see my reasoning to get one).
 
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#6
Athlon X2 6500 is going to be released very soon. It's basicly a Phenom with two disabled cores already (well, most likely just non-working cores). As said, I dont want to make it use too much power. I could get a Phenom X3/X4, but it only uses more power and you really dont need anything more than a dual core for a HTPC. Of course I can disable a few cores, but why should I if I can buy one with cores which are already disabled.

I hope to bring down its Vcore to around 1.0~1.1V and eventually OC it to 2.5Ghz. But mainly Im looking into having less Vcore. Also if I'd go with the m-Cubed case I really cant OC it too much since it's all passive cooled, no single fan there.
 
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#7
There is the Phenom X4 9150E. Runs @ 1.8Ghz with a TDP rating of 65W, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103287. It does have a slower HyperTransport speed of 3200Mhz but since you say your going to OC I think this proc would be right up your ally. Everything else about the proc is the same, L2 4 x 512k and L3 2Mb. Also runs with a voltage of 1.0-1.125v.
 
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#8
Yet I think that's not worth 60 Euro over the price of a X2 6500. Thanks for the input though. Also 65W TDP doesnt mean it only uses 65W mind you. Although Im sure it wont be a lot though.
 

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#9
forget an SSD HDD, use vista and its sleep mode. 3 second boot up times :)

a 3800+ x2 runs 1080p media fine on my media PC. theres no need to waste money on a faster CPU for media purposes.

sound: for media, you dont need a real soundcard. Even onboard audio is fine with digital outputs, and trust me the Z5500's deliver :)
 

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#10

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#11
is this some power bill fail stuff ? or real low power stuff?
the sleep mode actually turns the whole PC off. all fans, LED's, etc. The only thing active is RAM, and my power meter says it uses 6W of power to maintain that state.
 
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#12
the sleep mode actually turns the whole PC off. all fans, LED's, etc. The only thing active is RAM, and my power meter says it uses 6W of power to maintain that state.
If that would work in combination with Media Portal that would be quite awesome

PS, I made an error in my start post, it's MediaPortal, not Openportal:p
 
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#13
let me try this again..

find out from your cable company if they have cable cards. most don't, so buying that feature would be wasteful.

it's not quite ssd, but a compact flash with ide adapter would be pretty fast, quiet, and not hog up too much space. (Does the DFI have an IDE?)

We have great over the air tv here (virginia). I don't have cable for the tv, just for the computer. maybe consider another (in addition to) tv card, to get the OTA channels.

To save space/noise, a NAS for the big drive might be the way. i made a media server (kinda). it sits under my table and hums along non-stop, out of earshot from the TV.

Just some simple ideas,

Dickie
 

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#14
it's not quite ssd, but a compact flash with ide adapter would be pretty fast, quiet, and not hog up too much space.
it won't be fast at all. if you buy one of those cheap cf cards you'll wait 10 minutes for windows bootup, 10 minutes to install a new vga card driver. i'm going through this every time i have to noise test a new vga card. if you go compact flash then get the fastest card you can find.
 
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#15
it won't be fast at all. if you buy one of those cheap cf cards you'll wait 10 minutes for windows bootup, 10 minutes to install a new vga card driver. i'm going through this every time i have to noise test a new vga card. if you go compact flash then get the fastest card you can find.
yeah, some will run in PIO mode only, make sure the CF u buy runs in DMA 2 atleast.
 
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#16
forget an SSD HDD, use vista and its sleep mode. 3 second boot up times :)

a 3800+ x2 runs 1080p media fine on my media PC. theres no need to waste money on a faster CPU for media purposes.

sound: for media, you dont need a real soundcard. Even onboard audio is fine with digital outputs, and trust me the Z5500's deliver :)
is this some power bill fail stuff ? or real low power stuff?
the sleep mode actually turns the whole PC off. all fans, LED's, etc. The only thing active is RAM, and my power meter says it uses 6W of power to maintain that state.
I use just Win XP Prof for my Media PC. It just runs a X2 4800 with a HDCP 8600gt 512MB, 2GB system ram and LG HDDVD/BD rom. I can't tax the system more than 50% with C'n'Q enabled (that means the cpu is still running at mere 1800 mhz and still task manager only shows about 50%), this watching a Blue-ray movie, while recording analog program + HD program with 2 tuners.

Mine is a 65w cpu and I am glad I did go that route instead of the 89w. 2 things - power savings and since the media pc is inside a nice Aluminum media center Ahanix case inside a Glass cabinet with 2% air flow this thing never heats at all even in summer. So I would advise picking up one of those 45w cpus if possible (it was real expensive when I built mine).

Yes you don't need to re-boot everytime (unless u have a very bad ass software:D). My machine is mostly in S3 state and wakes up for scheduled recordings and goes back to sleep until I wake up. I hardly re-boot the machine, may be once in 45 days or so. This all done with Free ECS board(you can all laugh until u cry:D).
 
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#17
forget an SSD HDD, use vista and its sleep mode. 3 second boot up times :)

a 3800+ x2 runs 1080p media fine on my media PC. theres no need to waste money on a faster CPU for media purposes.

sound: for media, you dont need a real soundcard. Even onboard audio is fine with digital outputs, and trust me the Z5500's deliver :)
As said, Ill look into that Vista sleepmode thing. Ill check later on whether MediaPortal supports this as well, it sounds very nice.

I know a lower end CPU can already be enough, but Im just in love with K10 really and I think I can get some good fun out of the X2 6500 both regarding power consumption and performance. And it's not too expensive:cool:

Regarding sound, can anyone confirm this? Is an average onboard digital output enough? And how would the Z5500's do in bigger room (Im now in ~3x4m room), like ~5x4m room (seems quite a normal living room for TV and other stuff?).

let me try this again..

find out from your cable company if they have cable cards. most don't, so buying that feature would be wasteful.

it's not quite ssd, but a compact flash with ide adapter would be pretty fast, quiet, and not hog up too much space. (Does the DFI have an IDE?)

We have great over the air tv here (virginia). I don't have cable for the tv, just for the computer. maybe consider another (in addition to) tv card, to get the OTA channels.

To save space/noise, a NAS for the big drive might be the way. i made a media server (kinda). it sits under my table and hums along non-stop, out of earshot from the TV.

Just some simple ideas,

Dickie
Well, digital cable providers use that card so Im pretty sure Ill need it;)

Regarding the flashdisk, it's a nice suggestion but as W1zard already noted, I doubt its performance. Also Im not from USA, Im from The Netherlands so Ive no clue what air TV is at all either:p

Im not planning to record loads of stuff. Only if it looks like Im going to miss a program/movie which I want to see Ill record it and delete if afterwards.
 
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#18
Regarding the flashdisk, it's a nice suggestion but as W1zard already noted, I doubt its performance. Also Im not from USA, Im from The Netherlands so Ive no clue what air TV is at all either:p
thanks for the heads up on Compact Flash
Air tv = antenna, no cables, no bill
 
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#19
My Seagate 320GB drive had packed it in a little while ago and I decided to install a 64GB OCZ SSD in my HTPC. The load time differences are not dramatically quicker and I also tend to agree with Wizard, a normal HDD would be best served in your case. Plenty of storage for your media will not go astray. I also recently purchased the Z-5500 speakers and am running a Toslink from my mobo optical out. For my lounge room these speakers are more than sufficient as my room is not very big and also saves me buying a receiver and decent speakers (which I litterally spent months researching). I'm not a home theatre maniac, so for my purposes it is fulfilling the job perfectly. I advise a 32bit OS and 2GB ram is more than ample for a HTPC. I use a Thermaltake DH102 case inbuilt 7" touch LCD, the case build is pretty good, although I did remove the 2ea x 40mm exhaust fans from the rear, they were too loud and didn't see any real use since the case is well ventillated with perforated holes.
Good luck with your build!
 
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#20
I thought about the RAM thing. I think Ill go with 4GB anyway. As said earlier, it's not all that expensive and since I might run Windows Vista it's not like too much:p.

Do some more people have comments regarding the sound situation? The amp, or Z5500/S750?

Thx in advance!;)
 

Jmatt110

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#21
The Z-5500's will do you great. I have a set of Z-5300e's (one level lower than the 55's) and they can easily fill a large lound room, sound great andd have awesome bass. A friend of mine also has the 55's and the same can be said for them.

That said, if you go with blu-ray and want to make the most of it, a 7.1 set would be better, albiet more expensive.
 

Mussels

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#22
i just had 6 people over here watching BR movie rips on my Z-5500s, and didnt hear a single complaint :p
 
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#23
The Z-5500's will do you great. I have a set of Z-5300e's (one level lower than the 55's) and they can easily fill a large lound room, sound great andd have awesome bass. A friend of mine also has the 55's and the same can be said for them.

That said, if you go with blu-ray and want to make the most of it, a 7.1 set would be better, albiet more expensive.
But wouldnt a 7.1 set mean that I'd better pick up Creative' S750 set then?

And thx for the feedback on those speakers. Sounds like a good option then.

i just had 6 people over here watching BR movie rips on my Z-5500s, and didnt hear a single complaint :p
Although I dont know those 6 people regarding ideas of sound quality, it sounds promising;)
 

Mussels

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#24
But wouldnt a 7.1 set mean that I'd better pick up Creative' S750 set then?

And thx for the feedback on those speakers. Sounds like a good option then.


Although I dont know those 6 people regarding ideas of sound quality, it sounds promising;)
well technically if they had complained, the noise would have drowned them out, lol.

The z5500's are excellent sound at a great price - anything better is going to cost at least half again as much. thats pretty much the consensus on speakers for PC's in my opinion (and quite a few others, judging from the clubhouse here dedicated to these speakers)